The Nanny Dilemma

This summer, when your kids head off to camp, your childcare needs may shift dramatically. Plan ahead with these tips from the experts on sending your kids to camp without losing your nanny — or breaking your budget.

Girl Waving Goodbye

Every mom knows how important it is to have a trustworthy, reliable caregiver to mind your children when you can’t be there. As summer — and summer camps — approach, many parents face an uncomfortable situation. With your children at camp, what do you do with your nannies? And, more importantly, how can you make sure that the choices you make during the summer will guarantee that a nanny who has become part of the family will still be available in the fall?

These concerns aren’t uncommon, says Jann Reissman, assistant director at Camp Ramaquois in Rockland County. Camp days are long, and most parents don’t want to pay their nannies a full salary when they’re spending thousands of dollars on camp. Each spring Reissman fields phone calls at her camp headquarters from anxious moms who don’t know what to do.

“Parents don’t start to think about it until the spring, but we advise that as soon as parents have a solid plan in place they discuss that plan with their nanny,” Reissman says. “If you talk about it vaguely when there’s no plan in place, your nanny may assume she’s going to lose her job and start looking elsewhere.”

Manhattan mom Lyss Stern faced the dilemma for the first time last year. Although Stern has had a nanny for five years, last year marked the first summer that both of her boys would attend camp on a full-time basis. Until then, the Stern’s nanny was paid her regular salary while one of the children attended camp full-day and the other attended camp for half of the day. After discussing the situation with several friends and mothers she met through her website, DivaMoms, Stern approached her nanny about the subject. She told her nanny that her hours would be shortened and that she should look for a summer job. Stern also told her that she would reach out to other friends to see if they needed a part-time summer nanny.

“Our nanny is an extension of our family,” Stern says. “We always wanted to be fair and upfront. You do not deal with this the week the children go off to camp. That is not fair to the employee.”


Options, But Challenges, Too

It’s not uncommon for parents to try to secure additional jobs for their nannies, Reissman says. Nannies who have the same skill sets as camp staff members can often apply for positions at the camp their charges are attending and be accepted through the traditional hiring process.

Other parents try to find a nanny share with those who live in their building or neighborhood. In these instances, parents who only need the nanny for the time period before and after camp might find someone who needs a nanny during the day. Sometimes, if there are no other childcare positions, the nanny may help with housework and errands as a way to fill the time.

“Most parents try not to cut hours or salary because they really need their nannies during the school year,” Reissman says. “They know they may not be able to find another nanny who is as popular with their children.”

Unfortunately, even with a five-month head start, Stern’s nanny couldn’t find additional part-time work. So, the Sterns adjusted their nanny’s schedule. Instead of coming in early and leaving on the early side, she would come in late and leave later, which worked well because the Sterns often attend work-related events on weeknights.

Alyssa Benjamin, a Manhattan mom of two, first had to make decisions regarding her childcare situation when her oldest son started attending day camp in 2010. At four years old, her son was among the youngest to attend camp, but because he’s so active, she couldn’t think of a better place to send him than a camp with a pool and other children from various parts of the city.

Her nanny, who has been with the family for more than three years, would have the same responsibilities as during the school year, which include light housework such as doing the children’s laundry and cleaning up the kitchen after they eat, but would only be looking after one child for most of the day. Her wages stayed the same.

“Just because your kids get older and are gone for more hours each day at camp or school, your nanny shouldn’t be penalized,” Benjamin opines. “It’s not her ‘fault’ that the kids get older.”

Benjamin knows that there are other options. Many mothers she knows switch to babysitters when their children are old enough to attend school or day camp for long periods of time. That way, they can still get high-quality care without having to pay a full-time salary.

“I always think a setup like that would make me nervous,” Benjamin says, whose youngest son hasn’t started attending school yet. “But if you have a backup like a grandparent who lives close, it’s a huge savings.”